Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Credit to Fil Eden in the Cornell Daily Sun

They clean our dorms, cook our food and work hard every day to keep Cornell running. They are an integral part of our University. Yet a huge number of the workers responsible for feeding Cornell students have a hard time earning enough to feed their families.

A recent report from UAW Local 2300, the union that represents staff and maintenance workers at Cornell, finds that about 40 percent of all Cornell dining workers earn less than a living wage for a single person, while a full 75 percent earn less than a basic family living wage.

Alarmingly, the number of dining workers earning less than a living wage has increased since 2005. A living wage, as distinct from a minimum wage, is determined by the amount an individual working 40 hours a week year-round would need to earn to support themselves without public assistance. The rate varies in different areas along with the cost of living.

For Tompkins County in 2006, the living wage for a single person was $20,450 a year. With a child to support, the living wage was $26,400. A worker earning minimum wage in New York State, working 40 hours a week and never taking a day off, earns less than 60 percent of this: approximately $14,900 a year.



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Once again, someone reached out and asked a question that engaged my “start philosophical wax” cycle button. MMB

Question: How did this [campus sustainability] movement evolve [at Ithaca College]: was it, to your knowledge, student driven, staff driven? Has it turned over in almost an Al Gore minute? (I know for me, Al has played a big role in my personal sea change).

My reply: It’s an interesting question. And actually, there are several interesting questions imbedded within this one. Sorry in advance, but you’ve hit one of my “engage philosophical stream” buttons. Here goes:


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Last weekend, I went down to D.C. for the Green Festival. Before I went down there, I was very excited about everything I have been working with in Ithaca and elsewhere, both in helping grow the youth climate movement and working on projects, campaigns, and ideas that promote just sustainability. Yet on the back of my head, I was fully aware, as I still am, about what’s actually happening in terms of the climate (and the broader crises: water, poverty, agriculture, power, etc.).

Not everybody knows how serious this is getting. I’ve written before about very scary observations (here and here) that have surprised scientists and made IPCC projections look unrealistic. Just this summer, the Arctic melted to an incredible record. Nobody was expecting to see what happened this summer in the Arctic. Temperatures, for parts of July, reached 15C above average. Of course, that’s extremely scary if you understand what that means. It was distracting to hear reporters still say that scientists believe the Arctic would be ice-free by “mid-century” when in fact that may happen in the next decade. It was also disappointing to see governments focusing more on the oil that lies beneath there than on the fact that this is a very scary sign of the increasingly fast pace of warming.

Together with other observations and statements from recognized people that the “consensus” may be wrong and that we may actually be close to dangerous levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (not just CO2), I had lost complete hope that we could do something that would at least account for the millions to billions of people who, by justice and our moral rationality, should not feel the serious effects we’re expecting to see from runaway climate change (many to which I feel personally responsible). I thought that I’d keep working as hard or even harder just because “you never know.”


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An interactive community gathering on “Living Wage” implementation within our local food systems. Other topics could include local food security and development, local fair trade, and migrant farmers’ issues. Let’s strengthen our local food economy!

A collaboration of Alternatives Federal Credit Union, The Tompkins County Workers’ Center, and The Agricultural Justice Project.

Sponsored by Alternatives Federal Credit Union.

Sunday, October 14th at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market – Noon-3pm. Location will be the north end circle of booths.

Keynote Speaker: ELIZABETH HENDERSON of The Agricultural Justice Project

The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) is a non-profit initiative to create fairness and equity in our food system through the development of social justice standards for organic and sustainable agriculture.


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